Fiction: Selections from Niles Reddick
He had to wear dress shirts with buttons to his office, and he hated buttoning them. It took more time than shaving, flossing, and brushing his teeth combined. He remembered visiting his grandmother’s farm, his great aunts pinching the dimples on his cheeks and saying he was “cute as a button”. He didn’t think buttons were cute. He didn’t like being pinched either, but what he hated most was when they said, “Give me some sugar,” snapped him up, hugged him, and slobber-kissed his cheeks.
He struggled pushing the buttons through the slots—several on the front, one on each wrist, one under each forearm, and finally one on each side of his Adam’s apple. He was just thrilled everyone had stopped wearing ties during the pandemic. He refused his wife’s kind offers to assist, imagining his future when his arthritic fingers could no longer button no matter how hard he tried, or worse, when some stranger at a funeral home buttoned him up a final time, like his grandmother and great aunts.
He muttered and cursed the buttons, the shirt companies, and anything else that randomly floated into consciousness. He wondered if a company could produce shirts that could be untucked, why couldn’t some practical genius come up with buttonless dress shirts?
Losing My Sense of Spelling
My head felt larger and balloon-like as if it might detach and leave me behind, soar upwards into the clouds and then to the coast, and I worried about being shot by a bunch of drunk frat boys on the beach when they thought my head might be a UFO.
When my temperature rose, I couldn’t recall if r-o-s-e also meant increased or simply represented the flower. I asked my friend group on social media if anyone else had been sick, that I felt “week.” I couldn’t remember if it was “weak” or “week”, I looked it up, and I posted “week” for some strange reason. One of my friends in healthcare quickly commented that it worried him I was “week.” I decided to go to a clinic and get checked. I played on my phone, while I waited, and wondered why my friend was worried until I realized I’d spelled “week” instead of “weak.”
The FNP checked my oxygen levels, listened to my breathing, and checked in my ears. “Other than your temperature, do you have any other symptoms?”
“Yes, I’ve lost my sense of spelling.”
“Spelling isn’t a sense. It’s a learned behavior.”
“But I’ve lost it, and I explained what I had posted.”
“You have a cold and you’re confused about homonyms, not spelling. You spelled the words accurately. It’s just that they have different meanings. Just get this prescription filled and you’ll be fine in a few days.”
“One plus one is two,” the stepson sang, tapped the newspaper being held up by his stepdad sitting in the chair, and circled the shag carpet. He came around again, sang “One plus two is three”, and tapped the newspaper his stepdad was reading. The stepdad knocked the bourbon back, swallowed it in one gulp. When the boy came back around with “One plus three is four”, his stepdad dropped the paper, slapped the boy’s face so hard he wobbled and fell onto the coffee table, and wailed.
The boy’s mama had fried the catfish, cooked cheese grits, and baked hush puppies with bits of onion mixed in with the cornmeal. She heard the commotion, and wringing her apron, came to the den, hugged the boy, and scolded the stepdad. “Your hand may have left a mark. What will I tell the school if they call?”
“I don’t care what you tell them. Tell them he’s annoying, and they have my permission to beat his ass if he gets out of line. I’ve told him to leave me the hell alone when I’m reading the paper. Bet he won’t do it again.”
She hugged the boy, pulled him into the kitchen with her, and realized her newest love of her life won’t last, and she needed a plan to leave.
Niles Reddick is author of a novel, two collections, and a novella. His work has been featured in over 500 publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Citron Review, Right Hand Pointing, andVestal Review. He is a three-time Pushcart, two-time Best Micro, and two-time Best of the Net nominee. His newest flash collection If Not for You was recently published by Big Table Publishing.